|All Ross Powers ever wanted as a kid was a snowboard. Since that Christmas Day in 1987, the South Londonderry, Vermont native has been considered the sport's first child prodigy.|
Powers has dominated snowboarding, winning nearly every title, including a first-place showing in the halfpipe at the 2002 Winter Games. Powers, who turns 26 on February 10, now has his eye on backing up his gold-medal performance in Torino.
The American men swept the halfpipe medals during the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, as Danny Kass took the silver and J.J. Thomas claimed the bronze. It marked the first 1-2-3 finish for Americans at the Olympics.
"I really think going into the 2006 Olympics (U.S.) snowboarders have a great shot at getting a lot more medals," Powers said. "I think the girls have a chance to sweep with no problem."
A 1998 Olympic bronze medalist in the halfpipe, Powers was so excited to receive his first snowboard at the age of eight that he used it that day even though it was raining. The following year, he was in his first U.S. snowboard competition, and his entire fourth grade class was in attendance.
"The good thing about snowboarding is you can always go back to your roots, go out and ride power, have fun with your friends," Powers said. "Having the Olympics and other events involved has just brought snowboarding to a whole new level where there can be these events where athletes can show their talents."
Snowboarding was officially added as an Olympic sport in 1998 and in 2002 fans crammed the halfpipe and slalom courses. This year should prove similar at the Melezet Ski Complex in Bardonecchia, which is about 55 miles west of Torino.
"I think 2002 showed what snowboarding was all about," Power said. "It brought our sport to the next level. I think everyone is excited about snowboarding. I feel like we're like everyone else in the Olympics."
Seen as a Generation X sport, snowboarding has invigorated the Olympics with the athletes using mid-air acrobatics to woo the crowd with odd-name tricks. There's the fakie (riding the snowboard backwards from a normal stance), the goofy (riding with the right foot in front instead of the left foot), the inverted (upside-down) tricks, and sometimes, unfortunately, the flail (riding badly and out of control).
Teens and their parents are impressed with the moves and how snowboarders torque their bodies like Powers.
Powers has several other hobbies. He's balanced motocross, skateboarding, mountain biking, surfing and wakeboarding along with his time on the snow. He's also a father and enjoys spending time with his daughter, Victoria.
"It's good for the Olympics to keep it a family sport with all the kids really excited about it and have sports that they like as much as the parents that grew up in the other sports," Powers said.
- Eric Gold, Olympic Staff Writer